Alibaba Group kicked off its 11.11 Global Shopping Festival on Tuesday, a run-up event to its Black Friday-like "Single's Day" event, which takes place on Nov. 11. The festival is designed to entice Chinese and multinational brands to offer steep discounts for one day on its e-commerce sites, similar to the way Western brands offer huge promotions to kick off the holiday season in the U.S. Last year, Alibaba reported a record $9 billion in Singles' Day sales. Alibaba Executive Chairman Jack Ma reiterated the company's international strategy on Tuesday, which he said is to serve as the "gateway to China" for international brands. He also defended China's economy, saying that while there are currently 300 million middle class in China, and that number will rise to 500 million within 15 years. "China's consumption power will rise quickly and that will not only drive China's economy but also the world's economy," he said. Alibaba also said it is partnering with individual countries this year to facilitate imports directly into China. Shares of Alibaba fell 1% to $69.59 in premarket trade. They are down 14% over the last three months, underperforming the S&P 500, which is down 4%.
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